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Disneyland has survived another big holiday weekend with epic crowds packed into the 54 year old park. In this update we'll dig into some of the unresolved Nightastic! issues, and give you the latest calendar of new things heading to Anaheim in the next few years, plus a healthy dose of Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) gossip. Got that McMuffin out of its wrapper yet? Have that OJ poured now? Well then let's get going shall we? - Al

Wither America?

Of course Main Street and the Hub area in front of the Castle were its usual gridlocked self this 4th of July weekend at fireworks time. But at least the crowd control for Fantasmic! has been greatly improved since the opening weekend of Nightastic! caught them entirely unprepared for the swarms of Annual Passholders. It also helps that TDA has finally been adding a third Fantasmic! show each night when attendance creeps into the danger zone. Meanwhile, DCA had another lazy summer weekend with small crowds. That will change for DCA by next year's 4th, hopefully. But until then, the DCA boosters will just have to dream of the day huge crowds actually want to get into that park on purpose.

While the 4th is no longer the huge blowout in attendance that it had been (due to crowds now spread throughout much of the rest of the year), this weekend saw very healthy numbers descend on Anaheim. They were primarily headed to Disneyland, if only because DCA is one of the very few theme parks in the country that doesn't actually have a fireworks display or any special patriotic entertainment on Independence Day. While some folks might claim that slap in the face of patriotism is fitting for a theme park like DCA that lacks even a single American flag on display, the reality is less scandalous but no less patriotic; DCA is simply a park that has been left to tread water next door to Disneyland during all of the busiest days of the year.

Soon... soon...
No fireworks for you!

Even the relatively small Legoland park down in Carlsbad, ironically owned by a British company, puts on their annual "Red, White and Boom" fireworks show, in addition to the traditional fireworks and festivities hosted by the other parks in SoCal at Knott's, Sea World and Six Flags. But the TDA planners don't even try to muster some bunting or marching bands for DCA. That left the masses of people looking to celebrate the 4th in Anaheim heading into Disneyland this past weekend, just as they do at Christmas, and practically at every other time of the year of any importance.

The attendance numbers this past Saturday night tell that story perfectly. On the evening of the 4th of July at the time the first fireworks shell was launched behind Toontown, Disneyland held just over 48,000 people inside the gates, while less than 5,000 were left inside a rather spiritless DCA.

What's a Churro?

While Main Street and the Hub were overcrowded beyond belief by the time the Celebrate America fireworks were launched, testing the patience and nerves of both the customers and the Cast Members, the weekend actually went very well for Disneyland. The new, slimmed-down group of park executives were there on the 4th to make sure things went well, although some of those executives looked like a fish out of water in that environment.

That executive group, the newly branded General Managers and Vice Presidents for both Disneyland and DCA, are a rather eclectic mix of old-time theme park operators who really know their stuff, and clueless TDA suits who are more comfortable watching a Powerpoint show and sipping a Mocha than they are wandering through a busy theme park surrounded by thousands of visitors with a million questions. The old-fashioned park folks in the group are trying their best to quickly educate their partners who have been camped out in TDA for the last decade without embarrassing them too much, but it's still clearly obvious which ones actually know what they are talking about when it comes to running a major theme park.

Ed Who?

It's good to be the King!
Ed "He's just not into Disneyland" Grier

The exception to the gaggle of execs walking the park on the 4th was Ed "He's just not into Disneyland" Grier of course, who was not surprisingly absent. Cast Members working crowd control were a bit disappointed when Ed did show up with his family to see the Nightastic offerings the previous Saturday however, since Ed deemed it necessary to have a roped off area saved for him with a perfect view in front of the Castle, with an assigned Guest Relations host clearing the way through the crowds for him.

After Ed's group watched the Magical fireworks that night, they were whisked through the crowds to Fantasmic! and reserved seats waiting for them at center stage, with crowd control supervisors tracking Ed's movement via radio the whole way. And the moment that Fantasmic! ended, Ed was eased into Pirates of the Caribbean to avoid the post-show crowds. Sheesh, what a morale booster for the cast members.

It's no secret Ed has no real theme park operational experience, and he appears to have only slightly more interest in the place than his infamously detached boss Jay Rasulo. But when you are visiting the park you are supposed to be leading on a busy summer night, it would look better to the hard working crowd control Cast Members around you if you followed the rules all other visitors have to follow and didn't insist on specially roped areas, reserved seats, and guided escorts.

Long gone are the days when Matt Ouimet would be routinely spotted in the middle of the nightly crowds wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, just observing the park like an average customer.

Murphy When?

Speaking of hard working CM's, there's plenty of them in the basement of Tom Sawyer Island with that oh-so-troublesome new dragon. While TDA managers work behind the scenes to try and figure out how to handle the contractor who built the dragon (and who is also building Universal's big new King Kong up in Hollywood), technicians and engineers are working down in the pit nearly every day now making repairs to the dragon's infrastructure. While the situation is still very fluid, the latest info we have as of this post is that the dragon could debut as early as Monday, July 13.

Headless body found in topless bar!
As seen on TV... well, briefly.

The sooner the better, obviously, as huge crowds continue to pack the 9,000 space Fantasmic! viewing area each night, drawn by all of the marketing hype built around a dragon. Disneyland's Entertainment department will continue with overnight rehearsals and programming sessions for the dragon all this week, so wish them luck. They have also been testing a new entry for the nifty Flotsam and Jetsam characters, bringing them in from opposite sides of the island, which was the original plan before they had to cut the speeds due to the big waves and wakes the powerful jet-skis underneath created.


And just as Nightastic! hopefully hits its stride in mid July, the already massive DCA Extreme Makeover expands more. By the time you read this, the last car will have parked in what used to be the remnants of the Disneyland parking lot. The most obvious project is the drained lagoon and sprawling World Of Color installation. While that massive project is nothing short of amazing to watch, there was actually a scenario considered that would have seen an even more fevered construction schedule. One plan was considered late last year that would have piled on the overtime for both the lagoon work and the amphitheater construction in order to have the show up and running by December, 2009. That plan was considered as a way to pull some of the maddening Christmas crowds out of Disneyland and redistribute them each night into DCA. But that aggressive calendar was nixed mainly because of costs in an increasingly shaky economy, and the March, 2010 debut was settled on instead.

Part c goes into tab d using screw a... I think
Taken 7/5

It's probably best that they give themselves as much time as possible, if the technical problems that have plagued the fast-tracked Nightastic! offerings are any indication. For instance, the recent decision to include numerous fireball throwers and towering jets of flame into World of Color instead of an easier plan for low-level pyrotechnics should provide a unique spin on the average water show. The longer timetable is also allowing the designers to not only perfect the show itself, but has also allowed Disneyland's entertainment department to add in flourishes like the ability for the fountains to respond to a cheering crowd by coming back after the show to take a few grand sweeping bows, and if the crowd really cheers enough, to even perform a short encore in appreciation. This World of Color show is going to be big.

While World of Color was kept off the fast-track for a Christmas debut, the rest of the DCA Makeover timetable remains in a state of flux. The Orange Stinger had its closure pulled forward quite a bit and now shutters next week for its 9 month changeover into the Silly Symphony Swings. That accelerated timetable is all part of the bigger push to have that entire corner of the park changed into its fancier duds prior to The Little Mermaid's grand premiere in May, 2011. The TDA planners are trying to minimize so much construction going on at once, or having too many DCA rides closed at a time, so the Orange Stinger's closure was pulled forward to mesh better with the Goofy Sky School and new restaurant construction coming nearby in 2010.

Trailers would be better...
Taken 7/5

Cars Land construction is already underway on support buildings on the perimeter of the Cars Land property that will be used for maintenance crews and a satellite executive office for DCA's new Vice President Mary Niven and her collection of General Managers and support staff. Those offices located in the park will be a big cultural change for those folks, as they were allowed to camp out in TDA until now, much too far removed from the often gritty business of running a theme park.

Enter where?

The D23 festivities being hosted in Anaheim next week surrounding Disneyland's 54th Anniversary will tout all of this construction, as well as play up the next version of the Blue Sky Cellar exhibits opening on July 16. The huge makeover of DCA's main entrance, the one part of the parkwide makeover that will have the most impact and be the most inconvenient for park visitors, is scheduled to begin just a few days after New Years.

As MiceChat readers know, TDA is now considering filling the Carthay Circle Theater with a separate version of Club 33, meant to drain off some of the thousands of Southern Californians who are still on the Club 33 waiting list even in these tough times. That concept is nowhere near a greenlight, but the Disneyland Foods department passed on putting in a regular restaurant there due to the over-saturation of restaurants already in that park, and the plan to include a Carnation Café-style sidewalk bistro just across the trolley tracks from the Carthay Circle when the new DCA entrance opens in 2011.

Regardless of which Anaheim department gets its hands on the Carthay Circle, WDI is now putting all of their Walt Disney Story eggs in the new Mr. Lincoln show for now, and that leaves the interior of the Carthay Circle building largely up for grabs. You've got to hand it to TDA for thinking outside the box with that luxury membership club idea, although it's far from a done deal at this point.


While Disneyland seems relatively quiet by comparison, there are a few surprises proposed for the original park in the next few years. The most promising is the new Star Tours 2.0 makeover that has just recently received its funding greenlight from Burbank and is now slated for an arrival in Tomorrowland in the spring of 2011. While that attraction was originally supposed to arrive in spring, 2010, we'd detailed for you in a previous update how a wussy executive team out in Orlando got cold feet at spending as much money on their version as Anaheim had planned to spend on their installation.

While Orlando's executive suites are still full of charmless pencil pushers who make Ed Grier look like Walt Disney Jr. in comparison, a financial deal was finally worked out that is allowing Disneyland to move forward with their original plan for the full-feature and big-budget remake of the popular 1980's E Ticket. You can also thank George Lucas and his creative team for refusing to give in on Orlando's proposal to scale the makeover back for East Coast audiences.

Abe be there!

And about the time you read this on Tuesday morning, the all new and custom built Mr. Lincoln animatronic figure will be delivered to the stage of the Disneyland Opera House. While the grander remake of this 43 year old attraction was shelved in favor of a larger pre-show area that meshes with the new Disney Gallery moving in next door, Tony Baxter has continued to shepherd the smaller show to his notorious level of perfection.

The main thing left from the original plan is the Lincoln figure itself, as it will be the most advanced Disney animatronic currently on display in North America. While his lower torso will continue to be powered by hydraulics, as the newly revealed figures in WDW's refurbished Hall of Presidents are, it's Mr. Lincoln's limbs and head that set him apart by being powered by cutting edge electronic mini-motors. The intricate gestures made by Lincoln's facial muscles are said to be so exact that a lip reader will be able to follow along perfectly when he gives his Gettysburg Address this December.

And finally this fall Disneyland is also slated to see another addition to its popular HalloweenTime promotion with the debut of a long expected new Halloween themed fireworks show.

What, Where & When?

So let's run down that list and calendar of what is heading to Anaheim at the parks and hotels, as we know it today (subject to change or arbitrary whims of course);

  • July 16, 2009 – New Blue Sky Cellar Exhibit

  • August, 2009 – First Disneyland Hotel tower begins refurbishment

  • September, 2009 – D23 Expo, Grand Californian DVC wing opens, New HalloweenTime fireworks

  • December, 2009 – New Mr. Lincoln Show debuts

  • March, 2010 – World of Color debuts

  • April, 2010 – Silly Symphony Swings debut, Paradise Pier shops makeover completed

  • Spring, 2010 – Disneyland 55 Anniversary entertainment and decor debuts

  • Summer, 2010 – Route 66 makeover completed

  • December, 2010 – Goofy's Sky School debuts

  • May, 2011 – Little Mermaid E Ticket / Star Tours 2.0 debuts

  • December, 2011 – DCA Main Entrance/Buena Vista Street debuts

  • Spring, 2012 – Disneyland Hotel refurbishment completed

  • June, 2012 – Cars Land debuts

We'll obviously continue to keep you updated on all of these projects, and in the days ahead we will keep our ear to the ground for word on the premiere of Murphy - that oh-so-troublesome Fantasmic dragon.

Oh-kay - that should do it for today. Remember your support is vital, your donations to PayPal help keep the bills paid. We're only here due to all of your kind efforts.

Keep in mind updates only get posted when there is something to report on, and not before. It takes time to confirm things, and even then we can only offer a snapshot of a continually evolving story. Just like the happiest place on earth, patience is a virtue; the queue may take a while before you can enjoy the attraction. ;)

See you at Disneyland!

Al Lutz may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally.

© 2009 Al Lutz

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